A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day: Line by Line (1-63) - Summary

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Lines. 1-10. From Harmony; from Heavenly Harmony.....Music’s Power Obey

      In this stanza the poet describes how the universe came into existence He believes that 'music' was responsible for bringing order out of chaos (confusion). In the beginning, the whole of nature was full of chaos. The different elements were in conflict with one another. Suddenly the creator commanded these various conflicting elements to occupy their respective positions in the scheme of things. Obeying this command, they gave up their mutual conflict and began to work in perfect harmony.

Lines. 3-7 When Nature.....Dead

      These lines have been taken from the "song for St. Cecilia's Day", by John Dryden. Speaking of the power of music and harmony the poet says that the Universe was created out of music and harmony. In the beginning, there was nothing but chaos, disorder and darkness. The universe sprang out of this disorder as a result of God's command given in sweet musical tones.

Lines. 11-15. From Harmony to.....closing full in Man

      These lines are taken form Dryden's "Song for St. Cecilia's Day." In this poem, the poet speaks of the power of music. Music created the universe including man. The music originated in heaven through the words of God, spread from one set of musical notes to another, till the whole scale was exhausted. The climax of the melody was reached in the creation of man. The suggestion is that man was the result of the combination of all that was good and sweet in music.

Lines. 17-23. When Jubal struck.....sweetly, and so well

      These lines are taken from the "Song for St. Cecilia's Day", by John Dryden. Speaking of the power of music the poet says that music is capable of stirring up all sorts of human passions as also of subduing them. When Jubal, "the father of all such as handle the harp and organ" played upon the harp, the people who listened to it wondered at the divine music produced by the instrument. The music was so sweet and was produced so nicely that the listeners thought there must be some god inside the harp or such divine music could not be produced and so they began worshipping it.

Lines. 25-28. The trumpet's loud clangour.....alarms.

      In these lines, Dryden gives us an instance of the power of music to excite strong emotions in man. He refers to the blowing of a military trumpet, the sound of which instigates the soldier to equip himself with weapons and fight against his enemies. The piercing and high-pitched sound of the trumpet excites the emotion of anger in the soldier and gives a frightful warning of the coming danger.

Lines. 33-36. The soft complaining flute.....warbling Lute

      In this stanza, Dryden gives an instance of the power of music to excite and express sad emotions as contrasted to the violent ones excited by a trumpet. Dryden refers to the music of the flute. He says that the soft and sad music of the flute reveals the sorrows of disappointed lovers by means of its notes that gradually fade away; whereas the lament of lovers is expressed by the continuously thrilling music of a lute.

Lines. 42-47. But oh! what can teach.....above

      In this stanza, Dryden praises the music of the "organ" which according to tradition, was invented by St. Cecilia. Dryden says that no art or human voice can adequately praise the sacred music produced by the organ. This music inspires in the listener's love for God. This sacred music ascends heaven in order to teach a thing or two to angels who sing the praise of the Lord in a chorus (in heaven).

Lines. 59-63. So when the last and dreadful.....shall untune the sky

      When on the last day (i.e. the day of judgment), this world would be destroyed and when the trumpet announcing the Doomsday would be heard sounding high in the air, and when the living will die, the music of the trumpet would destroy the harmony, which is the unifying principle of the universe.

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